'The Danish practice of having your baby sleep outside in their stroller is not only the cultural norm but it's even recommended by your midwives and baby nurses.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 22, 2023. It has since been updated.
A video of a baby stroller left outside unattended sparked conversations about the practice of letting babies nap alone in cold weather. Australian TikTok user, Olly Bowman uploaded a video titled, "Another day in Norway, another group of babies left out alone in the cold." In the video, Bowman films himself and a group of baby strollers lined up on the street behind him. No parents were seen in the frame. "It helps with their breathing and makes them more independent," he said. As reported by Insider, social media users were shocked at the concept, with many interpreting this as a positive that parents feel comfortable leaving their children unsupervised without worrying about any possible danger.
Viewers in the United States were worried about this happening in their country, as many parents are scared about their children's safety at school in the wake of mass shootings. "Babies being left outside for mums to shop and in America, we are scared to send any age to school," said @kristacole4. "Me & my baby moving to Norway. Seems like a place ppl mind their own business," wrote @reyana.fit. However, this isn't the first time that babies left outside in the cold have gained attention. In September 2022, @annieineventyrland, a mom of four, posted a video of the same in Denmark. The video, with 16 million views, shows a large group of baby strollers left outside or under a tree while their mothers shopped in a nearby store.
The voice in the video said, "The Danish practice of having your baby sleep outside in their stroller is not only the cultural norm but it's even recommended by your midwives and baby nurses." She went on to say that babies are left outside "in all kinds of weather," dressed in "lightweight wool and a down duvet" to regulate their temperature while their parents go shopping or sit in a coffee shop. Moreover, the parents "always keep a close eye" or have a baby monitor in the stroller. It is not unusual for babies to nap outside in Nordic countries, including Denmark and Finland, according to Insider.
When Danish musician Amalie Bruun posted a photo of her then four-month-old son on Instagram, saying he "sleeps outside most of the time," it sparked a few online discussions. A 2006 study found that children "took longer naps outdoors compared with naps taken indoors." In Finland, it is a common practice that starts when the child is two weeks old and is carried out once a day. Benefits of letting babies sleep outside include "potentially longer and better quality sleep, as well as reduced exposure to germs compared to sleeping indoors," said Katie Palmer, a London-based sleep consultant. But there are risks of "hypothermia in the winter and sunburn in the summer, exposure to pollution, and the potential risk of abduction if parents are not supervising their children."
In Nordic countries, parents are often more trusting than parents in the United States and may not hesitate to leave a sleeping baby outdoors in a stroller while they go to do some shopping. Many parents believe that leaving their baby alone outside is better than taking them into a noisy environment where they could be disturbed. But some sleep experts still do not advise parents to leave a baby sleeping alone, whether they're indoors or outdoors.